Are there 5, 6, or 7 covenants in the Bible? Some even think that there are 8 covenants. Let’s find out how many covenants between God and man are actually in the Bible. Progressive covenantalism and new covenant theology are theological systems that help us to understand how God’s entire plan of redemption has been unfolded from the beginning of creation to Christ.
These plans seek to understand how God’s plan is al one eternal, progressively revealed plan is shown through the covenants.
What are the covenants in the Bible?
Understanding covenants is crucial to understanding the Bible. A covenant is a phrase used in legal and financial terminology. It’s a promise that certain activities will or will not be carried out or that certain promises will be kept. Financial covenants are put in place by the lender to protect themselves from the borrowers defaulting covenants.
Progressive covenantalism vs new covenant theology vs dispensationalism
Understanding the difference between the various epochs or dispensations across history has been a subject of great debate for quite some time. Even the apostles seemed to wrestle with the implications of Christ’s covenant work (see Acts 10-11). There are three major theological views: on one side you have dispensationalism and on the other side you have covenant theology. In the middle would be progressive covenantalism.
Dispensationalists believe that Scripture is revealing a general unfolding of seven “dispensations,” or means through which God governs His interactions with His creation. For example, God’s covenant with Adam was different than God’s covenant with Abraham, and they are still different than God’s covenant with the Church. As time progresses, so does the dispensation that is in effect. With each new dispensation the old one is done away with. Dispensationalists also hold to a very strict distinction between Israel and the Church.
The extreme opposite of this view is Covenant theology. While they both will say that Scripture is progressive, this viewpoint is centered around God’s TWO covenants. A Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Works was set between God and man in the Garden of Eden. God promised life if man would obey, and He promised judgement if man disobeyed. The covenant was broken when Adam and Eve sinned, and then God reissued the covenant at Sinai, where God promised long life and blessings to Israel if they obeyed the Mosaic Covenant. The Covenant of Grace came about after the Fall. This is an unconditional covenant God has with man where He promises to redeem and save the elect. All of the various smaller covenants (Davidic, Mosaic, Abrahamic, etc) are outworkings of this Covenant of Grace. This view holds a great deal of continuity whereas dispensationalism has a great deal of discontinuity.
The primary difference between New Covenantalism (aka Progressive Covenantalism) and Covenantalism is how each of them views the Mosaic Law. Covenant Theology sees the law in three distinct categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. Whereas New Covenantalism views the Law as simply just one large cohesive law, since the Jews did not delineate between the three categories. With New Covenantalism, since all the law was fulfilled in Christ, the moral aspects of the law no longer apply to Christians.
However, the Covenant of Works is still applicable because people are still dying. Christ has fulfilled the law, but the moral laws are a reflection of God’s character. We are commanded to grow in righteousness and to become more Christ like – which would be in keeping with the moral law. All mankind are held accountable and will be judged against God’s moral law, it is still legal binding to us today.
Covenants between men
Covenants between men were binding. If someone failed to keep their end of the bargain, their life may be forfeit. Covenant is the most extreme and binding form of a promise. A Christian marriage is not just a legal contract – it’s a Covenant between the couple and God. Covenants mean something.
Covenants between God and man
A covenant between God and man is just as binding. God always keeps His promises. He is perfectly faithful.
How many covenants are in the Bible?
There are 7 covenants in the Bible between God and man.
The 7 covenants of God
- Genesis 1:26-30, Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:15
- This covenant is general in nature and between God and man. Man was commanded to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God promised judgement for sin and promised future provision for His redemption.
- Genesis 9:11
- This covenant was made between God and Noah just after Noah and his family left the ark. God promised to never destroy the world by a flood again. He included His sign of faithfulness – a rainbow.
- Genesis 12:1-3, Romans 4:11
- This is an unconditional covenant made between God and Abraham. God promised blessings to Abraham, and promised to make his family into a great nation. This blessing also included blessings on others who blessed them and curses on those who cursed them. The sign of circumcision was given to Abraham as a demonstration of his faith in God’s covenant. The fulfillment of this covenant is seen in the creation of the nation of Israel and in Jesus coming from the line of Abraham.
- Deuteronomy 30:1-10
- This is an unconditional covenant made between God and Israel. God promised to scatter Israel if they disobeyed God and to restore them later to their land. It has been fulfilled twice (Babylonian Captivity/Rebuilding of Jerusalem and Destruction of Jerusalem/Reinstatement of the nation of Israel.)
- Deuteronomy 11
- This is a conditional covenant where God promised the Israelites that He would bless them and curse them for their disobedience and promised to bless them when they repent and return to Him. We can see this covenant broken and restored repeatedly throughout the Old Testament.
- 2 Samuel 7:8-16, Luke 1:32-33, Mark 10:77
- This is an unconditional covenant where God promises to bless the family line of David. He assured David that he would have an everlasting kingdom. This was fulfilled in Jesus, who was a descendant of David.
- Jeremiah 31:31-34, Matthew 26:28, Hebrews 9:15
- This covenant God promises man that He would forgive sin and have an unbroken relationship with His chosen people. This covenant was initially made with the nation of Israel and it was later extended to include the Church. This is fulfilled in the work of Christ.
By studying the covenant’s we can better understand how God is faithful. He never will fail to keep His promises. God’s plan for mankind has been the same since before the creation of the world – He will exalt His name, He will exhibit His mercy and goodness and grace. All of God’s promises are based on and centered around who He is and His beautiful plan of redemption.